News of ransomware locking the computer systems of some of the biggest companies in the world behind encryption dominated the headlines not too long ago. While it seems the attacks have cooled down lately, the hackers responsible for these digital assaults continue to devise new ways to bypass security and infect computers.
Worse, some enterprising hackers have also resorted to selling their malware like software-as-a-service. These ready-to-use ransomware allow anyone with basic computer knowledge to launch their own attacks, demand a ransom from the victims, and even steal data.
Purchasing ransomware to deploy against a company you hate, or a company you believe is morally bankrupt may be tempting. But using malware, no matter your intentions, is a federal crime. You could even face multiple charges for launching such a cyberattack.
Ransomware is wire fraud
Ransomware is called such because the attackers hold the infected computer systems for ransom. Hackers would order the victim to pay them electronically, usually in the form of cryptocurrency, or else they would keep the affected systems locked.
This approach is a criminal offense because according to the U.S. Code, anyone who devises a scheme to defraud money through wire or similar other electronic means is guilty of fraud by wire. If convicted, a person faces as much as $1,000,000 in fines and up to 30 years in prison.
Ransomware is aggravated identity theft
Some ransomware attacks don’t stop at just locking away computer files. Hackers might also copy the data from within the computers to sell or share with other cybercriminals on the dark web. Sensitive information such as names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security Numbers, payment card details and more are often popular targets for leaking. This tactic, too, is a federal crime.
Per federal law, anyone who – during any felony violation such as wire fraud – knowingly transfers or uses the personal identification information of another person also commits aggravated identity theft. In addition to any other punishments the convicted face, they must also serve an additional two-year imprisonment sentence.
Accusations of launching a ransomware attack lead to heavy criminal charges on the federal level. If you face charges, understand that steep fines and decades of prison time await you on conviction, not to mention having at least two major crimes on your record.